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National dispute

January 29, 2011

University of Leeds Ballot paperAll members in higher education institutions will be asked to vote in a ballot over the employers’ failure to engage with the union’s national claim for a job security agreement and a fair pay offer. The ballot will open on Wednesday 2 February, this coming week. Keep an eye open for your ballot papers.

For the second year running, the university employers’ organisation has:

● refused to negotiate a nationally agreed approach to improve job security and defend provision
● failed to address equality matters
● offered a real-terms pay cut.

University staff face the worst job cuts for a generation. Thousands of jobs have already gone in our sector. 40,000 more staff are at risk from government plans to make further cuts. As part of the national claim, we asked for talks aimed at agreeing national proposals to improve job security. For two years now, the employers have consistently refused to engage with us on this issue.

Fair treatment

The joint union claim also asks for action to improve the conditions of the lowest paid and most vulnerable staff, tackle the abuse of casual contracts and close the gender pay gap. The employers have refused to take any real action on these matters.

The employers are split but your union is united. UCU delegates from across the country met at the end of November and agreed that if the employers continued to refuse to talk to us about measures to improve job security, and if they continued to attack our pensions, then we would ballot for strike action and action short of a strike early in the New Year. The defence of jobs is the key means by which courses, schools, universities and the provision for students can be defended.

Attacks across the board

Some employers have tried to break away from national bargaining and others are trying to introduce performance-related pay or new contracts. Their refusal to engage with the unions is an attack on the principle of collective bargaining and, if the employers are allowed to succeed, the attacks on pay, jobs, and terms and conditions in universities will be remorseless and endless. This means that UCU is now struggling to defend the very existence of high-quality higher education. Academic and related staff are dedicated and highly qualified professionals providing a public service by educating future generations. Everything that makes it possible to recruit and retain the best staff and to deliver the highest quality teaching and research is currently under attack. The consequences of these attacks will be felt by every UCU member and by every person who seeks to benefit from higher education in the UK.


We are in dispute with the employers over their failure to make a fair pay offer and their complete refusal to engage with the issue of job security. We must take a stand to defend the education system we have created. Where we have faced attacks at institutional level and we have taken a firm stand, we have shown that we can defend our members. It is time now to take this determination to the national level in pursuit of an agreement that will protect pay and jobs. University employers are once again eroding the value of our pay. We have not sought ‘more money’, but rather consolidation and protection from further attacks on salaries for hard-pressed staff. At a time when workloads are increasing, university employers have begun a renewed attack on your pay, making offers of 0.5% and 0.4%, for periods when inflation is in excess of 4%.

Talks continue

UCU will continue to talk to the national employers to try to resolve the current disputes, but members should start preparing for action to defend our jobs, defend our pensions, and defend education. Not a member? Join today at

It is becoming clear that university employers are using the cuts, the Browne Report and the privatisation of higher education to argue that they cannot negotiate a national deal with us and that staff cannot be treated fairly. We can and must challenge this.

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